Greatest Movie Series
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Nightmare on Elm Street Films
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) | A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) | A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) | Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
(Wes Craven's) New Nightmare (1994) | Freddy vs. Jason (2003) | A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Three Great Horror Film Franchises
|A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
d. Wes Craven, 91 minutes
Film Plot Summary
Under the credits, disembodied hands of an anonymous individual were seen in a boiler room assembling a right-handed leather work-glove with sharp thin blades for fingers, using various crude metal-working tools and a welder. The figure placed his hand into the deadly claw-hand with four razor/talons for fingers - and then slashed through a canvas.
The unknown man entered into the nightmarish dream of 15 year-old Christina "Tina" Gray (Amanda Wyss) who was wearing a thin nightgown. She was pursued down a dark concrete hallway with steam pipes emitting vapor and dripping water, and into an immense, echoing boiler room with pipes and catwalks. Someone called out her name, "Tina" and cackled at her, as she was terrorized. The brown fedora-wearing individual - with the bladed hand - tore through some canvas near her and lunged at her, as she ran to an open furnace fire and screamed, and was grabbed from behind.
Suddenly, she woke upright in bed, realizing she had just experienced a nightmare. Her single mother entered her bedroom and asked if she was alright, and was told: "Just a dream, Ma," but her mother noticed that there were four vertical, scalpel-like lacerations in the front of Tina's nightgown near her chest: "You gotta cut your fingernails. You gotta stop that kind of dreaming. One or the other." Tina grabbed the crucifix hanging above her bed and pressed it to herself.
In the next soft-focus shot, girls in white dresses were skipping rope and singing:
It was the next day, and Tina told her high school friends about her "worst nightmare." Her three friends included:
Nancy admitted to having a bad dream also, and tried to reassure Tina: "Everyone has a bad dream once in a while. It's no biggy." Glen hinted that when he had nightmares, he would tell himself that it was a bad dream and then he would wake right up.
That evening, Nancy and Glen had decided to stay over at Tina's house to keep her company, while her mother was out of town for a few days (in Las Vegas). Glen fooled his mother into believing that he was staying at his cousin's house near the airport. Tina told how she kept "seeing that guy's weird face and hearing those fingernails." Heather was astonished - it was identical to her dream about a guy in a red and green sweater with hand-made "finger-knives...that made a horrible sound." Tina was startled: "You dreamed about the same creep I did." Glen interjected: "That's impossible."
To scare his friends, Tina's boyfriend Rod made unusual scraping noises in the backyard ("There's something out there"), and then pounced out from hiding at Glen, bringing him to the ground. He had come "to make up" with Tina after another one of their minor squabbles. He had invited himself over to crash their "sleepover date." He had used a small three-pronged garden hoe to scrape the side of the house, producing a screeching noise. Sensing that Tina's mother wasn't home, he told Nancy and Glen: "Me and Tina got stuff to discuss" - implying that they would go upstairs to have sex in her mother's bed. Tina asked for her friends to stay with her, although downstairs. Nancy told Glen when he began kissing her that they wouldn't have sex like the other couple: "Not now. We're here for Tina now, not ourselves."
Later than night at 2am, Glen was painfully forced to listen to the orgasmic love-making moaning and screaming of the couple upstairs, mumbling to himself: "Morality sucks," as he slept on the couch. Post-coitus, slutty Tina told Rod (cleverly named): "I knew there was something about you I liked...Jungleman fix Jane...No more fights." But he strangely admitted to having a nightmare too.
During the remainder of the night, odd occurrences happened:
Meanwhile, Tina slept next to Rod, and experienced a horrific nightmare:
Rod awakened from the screams and the struggle going on under the bed-covers, as she grappled with her phantom attacker. Rod pulled off the blanket and sheet, but could only see Tina flailing about. He watched as her bare torso was bloodily slashed open with four long gashes from an invisible source - obviously the bladed glove. She was picked up into the air, thrown against the wall, and dragged up to the ceiling upside-down and feet-first - with blood smeared along her path, as she was slashed further and blood splattered around the room.
In the middle of the ceiling, her body was suddenly released, and Tina flopped onto the bloodied bed and floor below (# 1 death). Her terrified screams and Rod's loud threat: "Who did this? I'll kill you!" woke up Nancy and Glen, who broke through the locked bedroom door and saw the grisly murder scene. Confused and horrified, Rod had apparently jumped through the window and fled to escape.
The murder was reported to police - and although a razor was suspected as a weapon, nothing was found at the scene. The victim's boyfriend Rod Lane was the prime suspect in the homicide, due to his prior history of arrests for brawling and drugs. In his office, Lt. Donald Thompson (John Saxon) questioned his own daughter Nancy, who was living with his perpetually-drunk ex-wife Marge Thompson (Ronee Blakley). Although "lunatic" Rod was the obvious murder suspect for having frequent fights with Tina, Thompson was angered by Nancy's behavior:
Nancy affirmed that Lane wasn't the killer: "Their fights weren't that serious." She then told how the murder was foretold by Tina:
Nancy insisted on attending school the next morning, after a fitful night of sleep. As she walked there (and noticed a man watching her - part of Lt. Thompson's stake-out), Rod grabbed her from behind, clamped his bloody hand over her mouth, and dragged her into some bushes. He wasn't there to hurt her, only to affirm his innocence: "I never touched her...There was somebody else there." Before he could explain further, Lt. Thompson held a gun on the young fugitive and arrested him, although he fled (barefooted) but was soon apprehended down the street. He yelled out: "I didn't kill her, Nancy." She was offended that her father had used her to capture her friend, and walked off.
In Nancy's English class, the teacher was lecturing about Shakespeare's Hamlet and another student read aloud from Julius Caesar in front of the class, while an exhausted Nancy nodded off - and the next sequence was her hallucinatory daydream:
She awoke from her daydream - screaming in her English classroom. The disruption embarrassed the shaken Nancy in front of the other students, and she left to go straight home. She soon noticed a fresh and round, red burn mark on her arm. On her way home, she visited Rod in his jail cell, where he partially described the invisible killer who wrestled with Tina under the bedcovers, and cut her with four blades as he watched: "It was as if there were four razors cutting at the same time, but invisible ones." And then he mentioned that he could have saved Tina if he moved faster, but he thought he was in his own nightmare:
This fearfully confirmed for Nancy that they had been haunted by the same figure and nightmare - and that Rod was innocent.
That night in Nancy's home, at the start of the film's most memorable scene, Nancy was innocently singing the skipping rope song while taking a luxurious hot bubble bath; she became drowsy and fell asleep:
Before going to bed, sleep-fearing Nancy took some fast-acting StayAwake pills, and also watched TV (The Evil Dead (1981)), when she was startled by Glen at her second-floor window. Invited in, he was told all about her experiences of the day (her freakout and burn in English class), causing her to noticeably age. She looked in a mirror in vain disgust: "Oh, God, I look 20 years old." She asked Glen questions about dreams foretelling the future, or his belief in the Boogeyman, and then asked him for a favor to help her in an experiment. She told him: "I'm gonna go and look for somebody," while he would function as her alert guard.
When the light was turned off, the picture faded to black -- the start of her dream, presumably?
She was furious at Glen for falling asleep and not alerting her:
After a short interruption by Nancy's mother worrying about her, Nancy and Glen rushed over to the police station (it was now 3 am). She was fearful from her premonition that Rod was going to be the killer's next victim, and she asked her father to check on him: "I just want to see if he's OK." Before they were allowed in, the nightmare that Rod was experiencing became real, as his bedsheet snaked toward his throat and made a noose around his neck. The sheet was twisted and jerked tightly around his throat, as he was pulled off his cot, dragged backwards and hauled upright. He was strung up in the cell - hung from the bars of the window with a snapped neck when the sheet was powerfully wrenched (# 2 death). The officers assumed that it was a self-inflicted suicide.
After the gravesite funeral/memorial service for Rod, Nancy told her father: "The killer's still loose, you know." He skeptically replied: "You saying somebody else killed Tina? Who?" She described the phantom killer who used dreams to kill people:
Lt. Thompson and Marge shared an unspoken, knowing look with each other. Marge sought help for Nancy at a sleep clinic, the Katja Institute for the Study of Sleep Disorders. Nancy's sleep patterns were monitored with sensors and other instruments via a one-way mirror into her sleep chamber. Marge noted to the doctor that Nancy started experiencing disturbing nightmares after Tina's murder: "Now she thinks her dreams are real." The doctor explained the substance of dreams:
After awhile, Nancy drifted into deep sleep, with rapid eye movements (REMs) indicating that she was dreaming. Suddenly, the graphing needles indicated jarring and jagged movements, as Nancy's body contorted spasmically on the bed and she screamed in terror. Once awakened from her intense dream, Marge noticed a wide lock of gray-streaked hair on Nancy's head, and there was a deep and bloody gash on her left arm. Beneath her covers was the killer's filthy Fedora, and when asked where it came from, Nancy replied: "I brought something out from my dream...I grabbed it off his head." Her mother stared back in horror.
In their kitchen the next day, Nancy (who hadn't slept all night) overheard her mother on the phone talking about the fedora - and then when questioned, her mother claimed she had thrown the "filthy thing" away: "I don't know where you really found it or what you're trying to prove." Nancy still asserted that Rod didn't kill Tina and that he didn't hang himself. She asserted that someone was seeking revenge from beyond the grave to murder them: "It's this guy, he's after us in our dreams."
To prove her claims to her denying mother, Nancy produced the fedora hidden in a drawer and claimed it was real - and had a name written in it -- Fred Krueger. She demanded to know about the man and if her mother knew about him, although her persistently-lying mother only wanted Nancy to get some sleep to feel better. Finally, Marge divulged:
Nancy was furious with her betraying mother and smashed her bottle of gin on the floor. As Nancy left the house, Marge called after her: "Nancy, it's just a nightmare."
Nancy spoke to Glen, who told her that he had been studying about the Balinese way of dreaming, and how a dreamer could enter the magical dream world and acquire a song or poem: "They get all their art and literature from dreams. Just wake up and write it down. Dreamskills." Nancy asked what happened if they met a monster in their dreams. Glen responded: "They turn their back on it. Take away its energy, and and it disappears." But he cautioned that if they didn't, the dreamer wouldn't wake up to tell what happened. Glen was surprised to see the survival techniques book that Nancy was reading - "BOOBY TRAPS & Improvised Anti-Personal Devices."
When Nancy returned home that evening to 1428 Elm Street, every window and door was covered with newly-installed bars, replacing the wooden trellis with roses. Her mother explained it was for "security," and led Nancy to the cellar to further elucidate the truth about Fred Krueger, a terrorizing child killer:
She reached into the furnace behind her and removed a dirty sack, before continuing with her story about how Krueger was released on a legal technicality, but tracked down by parental vigilantism:
She unwrapped the dirty bundle, displaying Fred's gloved and rusted blade knives that she had saved. And then she assured Nancy that she could now sleep, although she had avoided sleep for seven days.
Nancy phoned Glen, who lived across the street, to warn him about the demonic dream killer, predicting that they might be the next victims. She explained how the killer was taking revenge on the children - descendants of those in a lynch mob who had murdered him years earlier. She told him about her next plan: "Just give me some help nailing the guy when I bring him out...(of) my dream." He loved her although he thought she was "nutty as a fruitcake." Her simplistic idea was to grab the guy in her dream, and then have Glen wake her up during the struggle:
She suggested meeting him on her porch at midnight to carry out her plan, and warned him to not fall asleep. To fight off sleep herself at about 11:45 pm, Nancy took more pills and drank coffee, and although her mother comforted her and urged her to sleep, vowing that "the nightmare's over," Nancy was uncertain. A few minutes later, Nancy phoned Glen to keep him from falling asleep, but his over-protective parents (who suspected she was a 'lunatic') answered the phone and forbid her to talk to him, and then took the phone off the hook.
Then, even after she had ripped her phone cord from the wall in frustration, Nancy received a taunting phone call from Krueger - during a mini-dream:
She feared that Glen was about to die, but was prevented from leaving the house because her mother had locked all the doors and windows from the inside.
At midnight after Glen had drifted off to sleep sprawled back fully-clothed on his bed with a blaring TV on his lap, Freddy's clawed hand burst through a hole in the bed under him, and hungrily sucked, swallowed and pulled him through the bed cover down into the hole (along with the TV, stereo, bed covers, pillow, sheet, and headphones, etc.), and then reduced him to a bloody geyser or column of his shredded remains that exploded (or was vomited) out of the vaginal-like hole and gushed toward the ceiling, drenching the room in his blood (# 3 death).
The murder was reported to police, and Nancy sensed that Glen was dead when she heard the sirens and saw the flashing red lights of police cars and emergency vehicles across the street. She phoned her police-officer father at the scene and offered a proposition to him about capturing the killer:
She asked her father to break down her door at 12:30 am, allowing her enough time to fall asleep and find him. Her father patronized her for the sake of calming his disturbed daughter, so that she would fall asleep. To be fully prepared to capture Freddy, the resourceful Nancy set up booby traps in her house:
She said goodnight to her drunken mother, and then prepared to fall asleep. She closed her eyes - and the screen went black (her dream state):
Her scheme succeeded when Freddy appeared in the real-world in the rose-trellis on the front yard, and she tackled him with a bear-hug to hold onto him. She awoke in her bedroom with her alarm sounding, wondering to herself "I'm crazy after all..." - but then Freddy attacked her there. She fought him off there and throughout the house. Nancy used the rigged booby traps set earlier to delay and fend off Freddy (the door bolt and the sledgehammer), and then called across the street to the cop posted to watch her house: "I've got him trapped. Help!", but the clueless officer responded simply that everything was under control. She lured Krueger into the living room, where the second booby trap was activated. Freddy tripped the wire and the light exploded, sending him sprawling, as she continued to desperately call for her father to help capture Freddy.
She fled into the cellar again, threw a jug of gasoline onto Freddy, and set him on fire. Finally, she was able to alert her father, Lt. Thompson and other officers to cross the street, break through the front door, and assist. Nancy found Freddy's fiery footprints or footburns leading up the stairs to her mother's second floor bedroom, where the flaming Freddy had pinned Marge to the bed and was strangling her. To fight the flames and smother them, a blanket was tossed over them, but when removed, Freddy had disappeared, and nothing was left but Marge's blackened, half-skeletal corpse (# 4 death) - which then sank into the fluid-like mattress and vanished.
In a state of shock, Nancy spoke to her father: "Now do you believe me?" She suggested that her father go downstairs while she was left alone in the bedroom. Freddy rose up from under the bedsheet and loomed over her - imprinting his face on the stretched sheet - and then burst out with his gloved hand. But she turned her back on him, unphased by his threat to kill her by explaining that he wasn't real. She calmly stated:
She turned to leave the bedroom as he lunged at her to stab her, but her resolute lack of fear caused him to vanish and fade away.
In the film's ambiguous, tacked-on, twist-ending epilogue (another dream?), as she exited her mother's bedroom, she found herself outside her front door in the bright but diffuse morning fog. Her mother saw her off to school and vowed to stop drinking. She was picked up by her friends (Glen, Rod, and Tina), no longer deceased, in Glen's convertible.
As the car roof tightly clamped shut over their heads, it revealed itself as red/green striped (the colors of Freddy's sweater). Uncontrollably, the windows rolled up and the car drove off, with the frightened kids trapped inside. Oblivious to their entrapment, Marge waved goodbye, as the camera panned to the right where a group of white-dressed young girls were jumping rope and singing the Freddy rhyme.
Suddenly, Freddy's right arm smashed through the front door's small window and grabbed Marge - and pulled her entire body through the opening.
Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)
With a production budget of $1.8 million, and box-office gross receipts of $25.5 million (domestic).
This slasher film came late in the year 1984, after both other competing franchises Halloween and Friday the 13th had been launched. This one featured a "dream world," sexually-deviant, sadistic, hideously-grotesque child killer, very different from the hulking, mask-wearing Jason Voorhees, and the lunatic homicidal escapee Michael Myers. Freddy Krueger, a vengeance-crazed dream demon was noted for his blood red/green sweater, horribly disfigured/scarred face, wicked sense of humor, brown fedora hat, and right-hand razor-fingered glove.
Director Wes Craven director who had previously made two ultra-violent horror-revenge films -- The Last House on the Left (1972) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977) made a name for himself with this more mainstream horror film.
Craven's film was rejected by all the major studios - and ultimately became one of the earliest films of neophyte New Line Cinema, which went on to major studio status later in the decade. New Line became known as "The House That Freddy Built."
The scene in which Tina was bloodied and thrown around her bedroom walls and ceiling, literally, paid homage to the revolving set in Royal Wedding (1951), with Fred Astaire.
This was Johnny Depp's feature film debut.
Body Count: 4 (all killed by Fred Krueger).
Christina "Tina" Gray
Lt. Donald Thompson
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